Verizon Warns of Scam Designed to Trick Consumers into Revealing Personal Information

PORTLAND, Maine -- Verizon today warned Maine consumers about a scam designed to trick them into giving out personal information such as their credit card or telephone calling card numbers.

In the scam, a con artist posing as an operator calls, usually between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., and tells the called party that there is "an emergency collect call" from a hospital or emergency room. If the customer accepts the call, the fraudster states that the call cannot be billed as a collect call, and asks the called party to provide a calling card or commercial credit card number to complete the call.

"This is a new wrinkle on a decades-old scam where criminals try to convince consumers that they're a phone company employee or someone official who needs some information to help them," said Dave Fisher, Verizon fraud prevention manager. "Scams like this are called 'social engineering' when someone uses finely tuned social skills to convince a unsuspecting victim they're someone they're not."

Fisher said Verizon and other long-distance companies have determined that this particular scam is originating in Italy and currently targets customers in Maine. The called party is tricked into believing that the collect call is local or domestic, but the real objective is to acquire credit card and phone calling card numbers.

"Once criminals gets someone's personal information, they can use it for a variety of purposes, including making long-distance calls or even identity theft," Fisher said. "We urge consumers not to give out any of this information over the phone to someone they don't know. If someone you don't know asks for such information, challenge them, ask for a callback number to verify who they are, or just hang up."

Customers who accept the long-distance calls will see a charge on their bills for a collect call from Italy. Fisher advises that customers call the company billing the call to discuss a possible credit.

Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) is one of the world's leading providers of communications services. Verizon companies are the largest providers of wireline and wireless communications in the United States, with 135.8 million access line equivalents and 32.5 million Verizon Wireless customers. Verizon is also the largest directory publisher in the world. With more than $67 billion in annual revenues and 229,500 employees, Verizon's global presence extends to 33 countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. For more information on Verizon, visit www.verizon.com.